At Home  --  Inspire  --  North America Travel

    Sanity Staycation

    A Mental Health Holiday

    Location: Whidbey Island Washington USA

    Not everyone is up for a staycation right now. But for me, getting away even for a day, or two, or three, is a great boost to mental health during pandemic paralysis. Since it looks like it might be awhile until we can fly off to the Alps, or the Cote d’Azure or the Azores…a little sanity staycation is a perfect pandemic prescription.

    Whidbey Island Staycation
    Our Cottage at Quintessa

    We’ve decided to do several sanity staycations in the weeks and months ahead, visiting places within a few hours or a few days from home. Places reachable by car with low impact as far as crowds or contact with humans. Our first sanity staycation was to the beautiful Whidbey Island less than two hours from my home in Washington State where we have been on travel pause for two months.

    Whidbey Island

    Whidbey Island Staycation
    The Quintessa

    First, traveling mid-week is a great way to avoid crowds. On Whidbey we felt like we were the only visitors, and that was okay with us. We rented a cottage on the grounds of the Quintessa, a wedding and events location. But on a Tuesday, we were the only guests and it felt really special to have it all to ourselves.

    Whidbey Island Staycation
    Langley Washington

    Whidbey is easy to get around by car. We’ve been here before so didn’t need to see everything, but if you haven’t visited before the cute shops especially in Langley and Coupeville are my favorites. If you are game there are also wine tasting rooms, distilleries and taprooms. Greenbank Farms will serve you wine and cheese and send you off with a delicious berry pie to take home – giving you a chance to savor your sanity staycation for a day or two more. Or pick up some world famous Penn Cove Oysters while here…the tiny sweet delicious mollusks are the best.

    Whidbey Island Staycation
    Joe’s Wood Fired Pizza

    If you are an experienced cyclists it’s a great place to ride, but we left our bikes at home this time and opted for some easy hiking. We chose to do a really fun day hike in the Fort Ebey State Park, perfect for any fitness level and offering some really beautiful views. Exactly what my mental health was craving.

    Whidbey Island Staycation
    Fort Ebey State Parl

    Although we didn’t have a reservation (highly recommended) we were able to slide in for an early dinner at the highly rated Prima Bistro in Langley. Both indoor and outdoor dining and a really great menu makes the Prima Bistro a top choice. If you want to social distance try to get a reservation off peak, although the restaurant was following all State of Washington distancing rules. On our second night we got take-out at the highly rated Joe’s Wood Fired Pizza. Excellent New York style pizza, in the Bayview area halfway between Langley and Freeland. We also made a quick stop for a treat at Coupeville’s Red Hen Bakery – killer cinnamon rolls, take out only.

    Whidbey Island Staycation
    The historic building in Langley,home to Prima Bistro

    Plan Ahead

    A sanity staycation takes a bit of planning…don’t assume everything is open and running regular hours. For instance Joe’s is only open for take-out currently (July 2020).

    Also very important is that you check the current schedule for the Washington State Ferries (unless you plan to arrive from the North over the Deception Pass Bridge). Currently due to reduced staffing Washington State Ferries are running at half capacity (July 2020). The Mukilteo to Clinton Ferry (closest from Seattle and King and Snohomish County and all points east) is usually a 2-3 boat wait unless you can travel during non-peak. Another option is the Port Townsend to Coupeville Ferry. If you are coming from points west and south ( Pierce, Kitsap, Thurston, Mason or Jefferson Counties) this is definitely the way to go. The great thing about this boat is you can make a reservation and be secured a spot on whatever sailing you want.

    Ebey Landing

    But that’s all part of the “fun” (she says tongue in cheek) during the time of Covid. Learning to live with new rules and guidelines will serve us all in the long run…and taking a mental health sanity staycation is a highly recommended way to feel better and wash away the blues – but only if you are comfortable being out. We plan to choose safe, quiet and unpopulated places to visit on upcoming sanity staycations.

    Not a soul around. Enjoying a cinnamon roll outside Red Hen Bakery

    Be safe. Be smart. And above all else, please be kind.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

    Reading Wednesday

    Absolutely astonishing. I loved this non-fiction book about mental illness in America. I listened to this one on Audible, it was brilliantly read, but I suspect reading it would be just as compelling as Kolker’s empathy towards the material and the family was first rate.

    Hidden Valley Road is the story of the Galvin Family of Colorado Springs Colorado and begins when Don and Mimi Galvin are teens in the 1950’s and continues through 2017. During this span of time, Don and Mimi Galvin will have 12 children and become important in genetic research due to the fact that six of those children will be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

    The book includes a great deal of medical detail and information, but Kolker’s writing makes it very easy for the lay person to understand. Combined with his brilliant approach to telling the story of this remarkable American family, the complicated relationships between each of them, as well as the astounding family history, Kolker creates an unforgettable read.

    The book has received critcal acclaim and has been “praised for it’s astounding depth and empathy”. It was highly commended by Ophra’s Book Club and debuted number one on the New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction.

    Few American’s have not been touched in some way by mental illness in their families or their acquaintances, and I believe anyone can identify and appreciate this memorable multigenerational story of one American families heartbreak.

    *****Five Stars for Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

    Read last week’s review of Wolf Hall here.

    My current read The Imperial Woman

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    See this week’s top performing pin here, my book review of American Dirt.

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    At Home  --  Inspire

    Skin Care at Sixty

    My Six- Week TimeWise Repair Journey

    Location: At Home, USA

    Being in lockdown, and returning so abruptly from our world travels back to the USA, put me in a position with free time to step back and take a look at myself. Everything that had fully occupied my time over the last four years had come to a complete and unexpected stop.

    But this provided an unexpected blessing – an opportunity for me to focus on self care. Something I have been wholly unable to do most of my life; to no one’s fault but my own.

    Me no make up on
    Me last week no makeup.

    When we arrived in the USA I found I had a lot of free time on my hands. I began to realize I could use this stay-at-home time to accomplish some self-care things I had so often put on the back burner before. I immediately started a running training program, joined NOOM weight loss (to date have dropped 20 pounds and will be blogging on this later) and set out to focus on revitalizing my aging and neglected skin and focusing on skin care at sixty.

    I’ve never been someone to spend a lot of money on beauty. I get my hair and nails done, but shop for myself infrequently and never too extravagantly. Most of my skincare products and makeup generally come from Target. When we travel I go months without wearing makeup and most days only use cleanser and moisturizer with SPF 15.

    But here I am with all this free time…free time to get healthy both inside and out. Free time to finally focus on skin care at sixty. Better late than never? Well, you be the judge.

    On arriving back home I contacted my friend Susi who is a Mary Kay consultant, because I had heard some good reviews about the MK line called TimeWise Repair. This line of skincare products is specifically designed for women like me, who are looking to repair damage from sun and sea, age and neglect.

    I began using these products in early May. I did a video on YouTube at that time, to share the start of my journey. You can see that first video below. In the video I share all the products I began using; 1) TimeWise Repair Foaming Cleanser 2) Indulge Soothing Eye Gel 3) Eye Renewal Cream 4) Vitamin C 5) Lifting Serum 6) TimeWise Repair Retinol Night Cream and TimeWise Repair SPF 30 Day Cream 7) Deep Wrinkle Filler

    Here is the first video…and by the way you will notice the 20 pounds heavier in this first video as compared to today…that alone makes my face look healthier.

    May 8th video

    I spent the next three weeks religiously following the night and day program for Mary Kay’s TimeWise Repair products and I immediately began to feel my skin was moister and generally all-around healthier. Once a week I used two more products in the evening; 8) TimeWise Repair Facial Peel and 9) TimeWise Repair Moisture Renewing Gel Mask.

    Here is the second video I did at week three. I REALLY notice in this video the bags under my eyes. At the time of this video I had not yet been diagnosed with a sinus infection…but clearly it was raging and causing me trouble. I kept hoping the Mary Kay eye cream would take care of the bags, not realizing it was something more. Here is the second video.

    May 30

    So today at week six I am pretty happy about how my skin FEELS as much as how it looks. I also feel like by focusing on this for six weeks I have developed good skin care habits for both morning and night, something I never had before. I would say that the products I feel have been the best for me would be the TimeWise Repair Foaming Cleanser, the Indulge Soothing Eye Gel, the Day Cream, the Night Cream, the Facial Peel and the Gel Mask.

    My consultant Susi feels strongly that the serum is one of the best things I can do for my skin. And I feel like the night cream with retinal has contributed greatly to the diminished wrinkles. It’s been nice having Susi at my fingertips for questions…something I can’t get from sales people at Target or the mall. Worth it for me in my busy life.

    It’s not pretty, but I’m sharing with you my before shot that was done on the Mary Kay Skin Analyzer App the first week of May, and my After Shot taken this week. Note I’m purposefully not smiling…to really be able to see my problem areas. The skin analyzer is the tool we used to both determine the products that would be best for my skin issues, and to see the results. Here it is. Oi. Embarrassing.

    Mary Kay Skin Analyzer picture week one
    Week one early May
    Mary Kay Skin Analyzer picture week six
    Week Six Mid June

    However, I see much improvement in the wrinkles, and am hopeful with continued use it will get better still. Although some of my most prominent wrinkles, like the “11” between my brows haven’t really improved at all, I’m happy to accept those as part of my sixty year journey. I think those are just here to stay.

    My final video, posted yesterday, shares a fun time lapse look at my routine to finish off the experiment. Here it is.

    So, again realizing I have dropped 20 lbs in six weeks, and started running every day combined with this skin care routine I feel really healthy overall. I see a difference in my skin, especially how it feels and even how my makeup feels on my skin. Here is another before and after shot with my make up on.

    March in Israel make up on
    BEFORE this is me early March in Israel, make up on
    Last week with makeup on
    AFTER Me mid June with makeup at home

    AND since I am making all this effort, I bought a new hat with a wider brim to protect my skin more than any hat I’ve owned before. Sassy. I am feeling so much healthier over all, I hope all these new habits will stick, and I can continue to improve my skin, weight and activity level in the months and years ahead. Because, you know, I’m fabulous!

    My new hat, make up on
    Protecting my skin with my new hat

    I would love to hear about your self care journey. Comment below or message me anytime.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I tried to read this book several years ago (published 2009) but couldn’t get focused on it. That was back when I was still a frantic working mom. Oh times have changed.

    I am much calmer and have a lot more free time, and on my second try I became engrossed in the Wolf Hall story. This novel has been showered with awards, and is fascinating in its complexity and historical detail.

    The book covers the early 1500’s in England, during the reign of King Henry the VIII and follows Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power within King Henry’s court.

    This is the first of a trilogy about Cromwell’s life, a man who was close to every major historical event in England during this period. He influenced Kings and Lords, had his hand in the Catholic Church and eventually the Church of England.

    Though filled with historical facts and people, the book is a re-imagined story built from historical records. My love of Ken Follett’s work of this same era is because of Follett’s ability to bring the reader so intimately into the lives of the lowly working class people of the time. Mantel does the same, but shows us the inner workings and confidences of the ruling class and aristocracy. From the King on down through the court Mantel careful makes these historical figures familiar to us.

    I’m looking forward now to tackling the next two books very soon. I loved Mantel’s writing, her beautiful descriptive prose precisely put the reader in the moment. Her talent for words in itself is beguiling. She is a faithful, veracious author.

    *****Five Stars for Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

    Read last week’s review of The Devil’s Cup

    My current read The Magic Circle

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    Adventure Travel

    How REI Travels With Us Around the World

    Funny title you say, how REI travels with us around the world? But it’s true. Oh so true. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and the Recreational Equipment Inc Co-op (REI) was just a tiny store back then in the ’60’s, but it was still a big part of my childhood. In those days REI was primarily focused on mountain climbing and backpacking. Jim Whitaker, the first American to summit Mount Everest and a Seattle native, was the first full-time employee of REI in 1955.

    In the 1980’s REI expanded it’s offerings but remained true to it’s co-op roots. From then until now, REI continues to offer high quality gear for backpacking, camping, kayaking, cycling and travel.

    REI roller bags and backpacks
    All our bags last fall on departure day

    I’ve been a member of REI since the 1990’s, and through membership you earn points for discounts on every purchase you make. And, because we travel so much and love the products, we make a lot of purchases at REI. In fact our family has learned to buy REI gift certificates for us when gift giving is in order.

    We have been using our down time during quarantine to inventory our travel gear and prepare so that as soon as we can, we can hit the road again. It’s still gonna be a while, probably after the new year, but we will travel again, and our REI gear will be with us.

    Packing for the Grand Adventure
    It takes a little effort to prepare for departure day

    Even if you don’t travel as extensively as we do, REI has a wonderful selection of travel items for casual travelers, walkers, hikers and more. Because we are such big fans, tooday we share with you some of our most favorite items from REI that we don’t leave home without. We hope this is helpful to you.

    The links below are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you.

    Travel Bags

    REI Roller bags on the train
    Our REI bags ready for boarding in Berlin

    We LOVE our REI roller bags and we can verify they are tough! Our bags are four years old and have been around the world twice! That’s 121 flights, 153,000 miles and 68 countries! With all the wear and tear the only thing we have had happen was one wheel got caught in a baggage carousel and we had to replace it…but the replacement was available on line and easy to install. We continually pack these bags to 50lbs each and will continue to do so. A great purchase for us.

    Check out this amazing bag here –


    REI Backpack on the Camino
    Arne and his REI backpacking on the Portuguese Camino

    We each have a backpack, mine an Osprey brand and my husband’s an REI brand. These have also been traveling with us as our carryon for four years. Additionally the backpacks made the 500 mile trek with us on the Camino de Santiago Frances, as well as on many other hikes. Both of these brands available at REI are durable and sturdy as well a comfortable. We beat them up, and the take a licken and keep on trekking.

    Check out Arne’s REI pack here

    And this is the one I use

    Packing Cubes

    When I first heard about something called packing cubes I thought it was just another gimmick to get me to spend money…boy was I wrong. I can’t imagine being on the road as much as we are now without packing cubes. Because we carry so much more than just clothes, our packing cubes provide us with a way to organize medicines, electronics and cords, office supplies and even things like salt and pepper and olive oil – and of course our clothes too. We have several different kinds of packing cubes but our Eagle Creek REI Cubes are our favorite and the most durable. The zipper (which has blown out on our other brands) is so strong and the fabric is perfect. I plan to pick up a few more of these before we hit the road again.

    My favorite packing cubes –


    REI Hammock in Cyprus
    Our hammock from REI in Cyprus

    Yes we do carry a hammock with us around the world…why? Because we can, with this lightweight and compact hammock by ENO from REI. We use the hammock on the beach, or on our Airbnb patio and sometimes even on a hotel deck. The straps we also purchased from REI.

    Our favorite hammock

    And the straps

    French Press

    Titanium French Press

    You might be surprised that I carry a French Press with me when I travel, but it is actually one of the things in my suitcase I use the most – in fact every day. And it’s so easy to be able to have my favorite French-press coffee each morning because of this amazing titanium light weight French press from REI. One of my all time favorite purchases from REI. It’s made for backpacking, but just as useful for a long trip or weekend getaway.

    Coffee on the go!

    Trekking Poles

    REI trekking poles in Spain
    Me with my trusty REI trekking poles, Finisterra Spain, the end of the Camino

    If you consider price and quality, buying a product that is well made will always give you more bang for the buck. Case in point, our trekking poles by Black Diamond. We have been using these same trekking poles for nearly 12 years. They took me over Mount Warminanusqa on the Inca Trail and all 640 miles on both the Camino Frances and the Camino Portuguese and hundreds of other hikes equaling thousands of miles. Trekking poles keep my posture upright, keep my hands from swelling and provide stability as I hike around the world. These collapsible poles easily fit in our suitcase.

    My favorite poles

    Hiking Socks

    My husband really likes the Cool Max REI hiking socks while my favorite are the lower cut Smartwool women’s style that keeps the merino wool off my ankle because I sometimes have a skin reaction with wool.

    His –

    Hers –

    So Many Shoes

    Over the years we have bought several pairs of hiking shoes as well as several pairs of Keen Sandals at REI (I practically live in my Keen sandals). I’ve also bought Teva Walking Shoes. My husband is currently a big fan of Merrill, and REI carries a lot of Merrill options.


    REI clothing in Uganda
    Head to toe in mud and REI gear after seeing the mountain gorillas in Uganda

    We have purchased many of our favorite pieces of clothing for both hiking and everyday travel at REI. My husband is a big fan of PrAna and owns multiple pairs of PrAna shorts and long hiking pants. I have REI hiking shorts that I LOVE and will be getting another pair soon. And we both own several REI and Columbia brand hiking shirts, both long and short sleeve.


    REI hiking gear in the mountains
    My fav hat and REI shorts

    If you follow us around the world you will notice we are rarely without a hat on our head. I carry three or four different hats in my bag while Arne usually has two kinds. He likes a wicking style baseball cap for running and daily use and likes the Outdoor Research brand. And for hiking he wears a wide brim hat by by REI. I also have a wide brim hiking hat that includes a roll down neck protector by Sunday Afternoon. I have had this hat so long I don’t even remember and it’s still in great condition.

    As you can see, I am a huge fan of REI, for the products I need at a price point I can afford. Through my experience I know I can trust REI for quality and durability on the things we love for our travels. It’s also really important to me to support local businesses. Although REI is now an internationally recognized brand, I love how it’s roots are solidly in the Pacific Northwest. And so that’s how REI travels with us around the world.

    REI with friends in Washington State
    With friends last summer, Mount Rainier Washington State

    Our fingers are crossed that we will be back traveling internationally in early 2021. We hope to pick up our itinerary where we left off (with some adjustments for weather) and continue on our Grand Adventure. The world has changed but our desire to see it has not. Another thing that hasn’t changed, how REI travels around the world with us. We are loyal customers and look forward to updating what’s in our suitcase very soon.

    Feel free to ask me any questions about products I am endorsing here. We love it when you share our blog. Be safe.

    REI on the Inca Trail
    Inca Trail
    REI on Mount Rainier
    Mount Rainier
    Reading Wednesday

    The Devil’s Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee by Stewart Lee Allen

    Coffee. It’s my drug of choice. If you know me you know I don’t just drink coffee, I experiment with it around the world. And through that experimentation I have learned to appreciate the cultural aspect of coffee, the history of coffee and the fierce competition of the world’s best coffee. And so my Book Review of The Devil’s Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee fell right in my coffeehouse.

    By the way, you should read my blog My Favorite Coffee Around the World. You definitely shoud.

    This book is actually old, published in 1999 and the story beginning in 1988. At that time, author Allen embarked on a around the world trek to research and get caffeinated and answer the question: Did the advent of coffee give birth to an enlightened western civilization?

    Allen traveled from Yemen and Ethiopia to Europe and India and the United States and in his journey he not only drinks a hell of a lot of coffee, he finds himself in some interesting and hair-raising situations. All for the love of coffee.

    The book has some great cultural history and Allen’s witty writing helps us follow the bouncing bean. Funny and interesting, but a tiny bit dated.

    ****Four stars for The Devil’s Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee

    Read last week’s review of Heart Spring Mountain

    My current read –

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    At Home  --  Inspire

    Immunity Boosting Foods for Healthy Life

    We are all a bit anxious these days about our health and well-being. Remembering the important recommendations for social distancing, mask wearing and washing your hands A LOT remains super important. But what we choose to eat in our lockdown lives is another important factor in staying healthy. Immunity boosting foods for healthy life is something we should learn to do all the time, not just when the world is fighting a pandemic.

    (The links below are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you. )

    Choosing to add immunity boosting foods to your diet is really easy, without giving up the tasty comfort foods we all are enjoying during these anxious days. Over the past few years I have been working on a diet that is rich in both immunity boosting foods, anti-inflamatory foods and foods that are good for gut health.

    Immunity Boosting Foods

    I am not a dietitian or a nutritionist, just a lay person who has experimented and found some things that work for me. And maybe they will work for you too!

    Gut Health

    Last summer we purchased a sauerkraut maker, manufactured by a company called Cultures for Health. Now we eat a few tablespoons of homemade sauerkraut every day. Homemade sauerkraut is full of good bacteria for your gut. Unrefrigerated store-bought sauerkraut has been pasteurized. Pasteurization kills all those good bacteria and so you lose the healthy benefits. You can use this sauerkraut maker for other fermented foods too like pickles, beans, radishes. Eating fermented foods adds good bacteria and enzymes to your gut! And they taste good too.

    Here is our fun video on how to make your own!

    Now I know you’re gonna want your own fermenter. Here is the one we recommend.

    Daily Breakfast

    Our daily breakfast nearly every day of the week includes a lot of immunity boosting foods for healthy life. Each morning we eat a bowl full of blueberries (antioxidants, phytoflavinoids & Vitamin C), spinach (fights cardiovascular and chronic disease), almonds or walnuts (packed with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals) and other fruits like apples, bananas, mango. We mix this with homemade yogurt.

    Immunity Boosting Foods

    The probiotics in yogurt (live cultures) are really good for your health. Yogurt is a great source of low calorie protein, as long as you aren’t eating the sweet and fruity kind. We make our own yogurt very simply in a yogurt maker we bought from a manufacturer called Euro Cuisine, through Cultures for Health. It’s really easy. All you need is a live-culture yogurt starter and milk. We make it once a week at night, and when we wake up in the morning it’s ready to eat. You can get one at the link below.

    Immunity Boosting Foods
    Yogurt Maker

    Eat the Rainbow

    The rest of our daily diet includes a variety of immunity boosting foods for healthy life like ginger (free radicals build a defense system), garlic (anti-inflamatory), dark greens and broccoli ( full of good vitamins and anti-oxidant goodness) peppers and citrus (nothing like the Vitamin C in these foods to strengthen your immunity) and apple cider vinegar (used in small quantities is a great anti-oxidant boost).

    Immunity Boosting Foods

    We eat meat including beef and pork, although most of our meat consumption is chicken and fish ( watch for a seafood blog coming soon). We try to have salmon, canned sardines and responsibly fished canned tuna regularly, all foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

    Immunity Boosting Foods
    Nuts and spices and ginger

    Tea Time

    Although I am a coffee lover, I often take a cup of herbal tea before bed. I love a ginger tea which helps me sleep as does chamomile, and I’m also fond of peppermint tea as a pick me up in the afternoon. I don’t drink green tea very often, but like the teas I mentioned above, these all are high in immunity boosting anti-oxidants. The world of tea is actually very fascinating…there are entire books written about it and tea is definitely a immunity boosting food for healthy life. For me, just an herbal cup each evening is both delicious, healthy and relaxing.

    Immunity Boosting Foods
    Herbal Tea

    Staying healthy isn’t just about food of course. Finding ways to stay active, get lots of rest, drink lots of water and engage in activities we love during these stressful times are all part of keeping your immunity system thriving despite the stress. It’s okay to have that brownie, or burger too. It’s not about depriving yourself. It’s about making good choices, adding immunity boosting foods for healthy life to your diet, the things science knows help our bodies fight back anything from the common cold to an uncontrolled virus.

    Take care of yourself my friends. Choose healthy options and be well.

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    Immunity Boosting Foods
    Immunity Boosting Foods

    The links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a comission if you click through and make a purchase.